Restaurant Owner: 'You Just Want To Cry, It's Just Overwhelming'

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Nearly six months after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of Long Island, merchants along the famed Nautical Mile are fighting back.

As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported on Thursday, bulkheads, boats, and businesses were ravaged by the storm.

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But the community that stakes its survival on tourism is getting ready for the summer season.

The oldest restaurant along Freeport’s Nautical Mile is Otto’s, built by current owner Ilona Jagnow’s grandparents in 1929.

The restaurant along the Woodcleft Canal was inundated when the storm hit on Oct. 29.

“You just want to cry. It’s just overwhelming” Jagnow told CBS 2’s McLogan. “Sandy brought in five and half feet of water and it floated up the dining room.”

“It’s a three-generation legacy that I’m rebuilding. It’s a big nut to crack, gonna need to have broad shoulders,” Jagnow added.

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Thousands flock to the seafaring community by boat in the warm months to patronize the restaurants and bars, and to buy seafood from commercial fishermen who dock their fleets daily.

Though some businesses still have not reopened, there is some muted optimism with summer fast approaching.

“Now you see that the money is being released from the insurance companies and the banks and the weather is more accommodating that the businesses are able to go out and work. They couldn’t work without heat. Everybody lost their boilers, everybody lost their plumbing, all the pipes were frozen,” Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy told McLogan.

Repairs are still being made along the Nautical Mile, but some businesses are back on their feet.

“We had six feet of water in here, and we’ve been constantly rebuilding and working for the last six months. And the boats are coming in loaded with big striped bass…the ones that made Billy Joel famous,” Jerry Bracco with Captain Ben’s Seafood told McLogan.

Freeport officials said the annual Summer Festival, slated for June 1, will go on as planned along the Nautical Mile.

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